By Sitawa Namwalie
I waited as the mzungu dog in a skirt stopped to defecate just outside the large ornate gate of my home. A maid in a checked blue uniform walking the dog also waited. She politely averted her eyes, as if to give the dog privacy. Her mind is a guarded neutral, a person used to doing the irrelevant work of rich people.
I watched. My hands grip the steering wheel of my decrepit Peugeot that looks out of place at this rich gate. A miss-match, just like my life. These days I focus on small things. I shut out the walloping questions that plague my sleep. I need to steady myself, hold my life together. But emotions leak and leap out of me. My gritted teeth no longer dam them.
I go on studying the dog. It was one of those small dogs whose names I can never remember. Thin and delicate with big round sensitive eyes, its hind legs trembled as it pooped small steaming turds. It brought to mind an old woman peeing in a suspect public toilet, afraid to sit, yet sure her flabby trembling thighs will simply let go and bring her in contact with that dreaded seat, anyway.
At any rate that skirt has changed the dog from being allowed to do dog things freely. Pee and poop in the open. Smell the bums of other dogs in public. Now it looks indecent, openly pooping like that!
Like the dog’s maid I wanted to avert my eyes. A thought crosses my mind ‘……that frocked dog should not poop in public, it should find a toilet, shame on it!…’ and then I recalled myself, skirt or no skirt it was still a dog.
I wonder is that what happens to us in the first moments we are discovered? Do we now become exposed? When others look on our bareness does it become a thing of shame? It’s clear the feeling of dishonour is not ours, the beheld. It is in the eyes of the onlooker. Other people’s embarrassment forces all of us to start covering up. All of us. Just like this dog.
That Chanyado’s first guest post is by Sitawa Namwalie is like having char-grilled lobster drizzled with garlic butter, as your first taste of seafood ever. You will be spoiled for life!
Sitawa Namwalie is a poet who has revolutionised how poetry is experienced in Kenya. Her work is nuanced, funny, insightful, fiercely intelligent, bold, subtle and utterly gorgeous, all at the same time. You can read more about her here: http://storymojafestival.com/speaker-lineup/sitawa-namwalie/
Her current show, Silence is a Woman (which I am privileged to be part of the cast) explores the many ways in which our silence imprisons us, makes us complicit in our own alienation. The show is about the silences in our homes, our work, our politics and our relationships. It will make you laugh, cry and wonder out loud about the lives of Kenyans. The next performance will be at the Storymoja Festival on the evening of Saturday 20th September. I have tickets for sale, if you would like to attend. You must. I promise, indeed promise, you are in for an extraordinary experience.
My own writing has been deeply inspired by this incredible woman, and I feel honoured that Sitawa is giving Chanyado a little taste.
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/alleykitten/3714607891/”>alleykitten</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a>